Credits: James St. John (Creative Commons license)
As delicate as angelfish look, they are incredibly hardy species that can put up a good fight when faced with ‘adversities.’ Freshwater angelfish, who hail from the lush Amazonian basins, enjoy a pretty long lifespan in the wild. But how long do angelfish live in captivity?
Let’s find out.
How Long Do Angelfish Live?
In captivity, angelfish enjoy an average lifespan of 8-10 years. But they’re known to live healthily up to 15 years in the wild. In the tank, their age expectancy largely depends upon factors like the tank’s size, the water parameters, diet quality, etc.
This answer is true for all three popular angelfish species in the hobby – Leopold’s angelfish (Pterophyllum Leopoldi), Altum angelfish(Pterophyllum Altum), and Scalare angelfish (Pterophyllum Scalare).
How To Tell Angelfish’s Age?
There’s no exact way to tell an angelfish’s age if you have not raised them from the beginning. Angelfish fully mature at around 6 to 12 months of age and live up to 10 years. So, it can be pretty tricky. One easy way to guess the angelfish’s tentative age is to look at its eyes. The bigger the eyes, the older the fish is.
Do Female Angelfish Live Longer Than Males?
Apparently, there are no researches done on this subject yet. However, there’s a good chance it is true because males throughout the animal kingdom live shorter lives than females.
That’s because, in the wild, there’s intense competition among the males to fertilize females, which pushes them towards an all-or-nothing life strategy, involving bloody fights to flamboyant displays.
How Long Can Angelfish Live Without Food?
Angelfish can go without food for anywhere between 3-7 days without any major problems. However, the answer is subjective. It depends on the factors like the fish’s size, age, and regular diet regime.
How Long Do Freshwater Angelfish Live?
Freshwater angelfish live for around 10 years in general. But with the proper care, it’s possible to extend their lifespan by another 2 to 5 years.
How Long Do Dwarf Angelfish Live?
Unfortunately, dwarf angelfish don’t fare too well in the aging department. On average, they live for around 5-7 years with proper care and the right diet.
How Long Do Emperor Angelfish Live?
Emperor angelfish don’t just enjoy a regal name but also a king-sized lifespan. They usually live for about 20 years and have even been known to live much longer than in the wild.
How Long Do King Angelfish Live?
King angelfish enjoy an average lifespan of 15-20 years. Let’s not confuse king angelfish with emperor angelfish. Despite the almost identical names, they’re two different kinds of fish.
How Long Do Flame Angelfish Live?
Flame angelfish live for around 5-7 years in captivity. However, ensuring a healthy environment and diet can extend their lifespan by a couple of years.
How To Extend Angelfish Lifespan?
- Choose the right fish
- Choose the right tank size
- Maintain right water parameters
- Offer plants and decorations
- Feed the right diet
- Help them destress
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Choose The Right Fish
First things first – there’s no way you can increase your angelfish’s lifespan if the fish has weak genetics, to begin with. You can provide the most stunning tank setup and feed the most nutritious food, but the fish will still be fragile and susceptible to diseases.
Angelfish with weak genetics may not even reach their fifth birthday.
Therefore, you must buy the fish from a reputable and experienced seller. While you cannot decode factors like fecundity and behavior by just observing the fist for some time, some physical signs indeed give away hints about the fish’s genetics.
Make sure to choose from a tank that houses large angelfish. This increases the chances that your chosen one possesses the desired genes.
Also, carefully look for signs of injuries – especially in the anal, caudal, and dorsal fins. See if the fish has a deformed spine or unusual blotches.
Choose The Right Tank Size
Angelfish grow anywhere between 8 to 10 inches long as adults. Thus, they need a pretty big tank. Although the minimum recommended tank size is 20 gallons, we strongly recommend getting a 55-gallon tank or even larger for full-frown angelfish.
Also, you should get a tall aquarium that complements the fish’s unique body shape.
Angelfish don’t do well in a small, cramped aquarium. They won’t even breed if the tank is too small for their liking.
On top of that, a small tank will only fuel their territorial aggression and pollute the water quickly. A combination of these two factors will quite significantly add to your fish’s stress, making it prone to illnesses and potentially cutting its life short.
Always consider the fish’s maximum size when going tank shopping.
I keep my angelfish in a custom-made 75-gallon tank, but here’s the link for a 55-gallon tank I really liked on Amazon.
Maintain The Right Water Parameters
Angelfish are quite hardy, but that doesn’t mean we can get away with keeping them in the wrong or offbeat water parameters.
Here’s a quick look at ideal water chemistry for angelfish:
|Carbonate Hardness (KH)||3-8°|
|General Hardness (dGH)||5-13°|
Install a reliable filter and perform a 10% weekly or 25% biweekly water change to maintain the water quality. Then, use a siphon vacuum gravel to get rid of the detritus.
In the wild, angelfish inhabit quiet, slow-moving water in dimly lit areas.
Thus, the flow of water should be gentle, and lighting settings should be kept on moderate.
Offer Plants And Decorations
Since angelfish live under overhanging vegetation in the Amazonian river basin, they’re a big fan of plants in the aquarium. Arrange broadleaf plants and driftwood vertically to emulate the overhanging branches and trees.
Also, add a few floating plants that offer both shade and cover.
My top choice for the plant is the Amazon sword, that’s incredibly low-maintenance and has broad leaves to provide shade and cover for the fish. You can also add java fern. Although it grows comparatively slower, it offers decent coverage for the fish.
Angelfish are known to take a few bites of the plants here and there. So, adding fast-growing plants like duckweed, hygrophila, and cabomba can be beneficial too.
And since angelfish forage along the bottom for meals, use smooth substrate, so it doesn’t inflict injuries.
Driftwood helps maintain the water’s acidity and lends a natural, rustic look. So, it’s my favorite decor for an angelfish tank.
Also, add a breeding cone like this one and some flat rocks to serve as spawning sites for the fish.
Feed The Right Diet
Angelfish are omnivores and have an appetite for almost anything you give. In nature, they usually forage along the base looking for small crustaceans and worms to snack on. However, in the tank, they often feed at the surface or mid-water.
During the 5-day long wiggler stage, they feed on their yolk sac for nutrition. However, as soon as they become free-swimming, you need to ensure a nutritious diet for them.
You can give flake food, pellets, live food, feeder fish, brine shrimp, frozen food, and blanched vegetables like broccoli and lettuce.
For the best results, rotate the diet every day and feed amount that they can consume within 2 minutes, twice a day.
Don’t go overboard with the feeding regime. There are numerous caveats attached to it, like bloating and indigestion.
On top of that, overfeeding also means your fish will produce a considerably higher amount of waste – polluting the water much quicker. And don’t forget to remove any uneaten food from the tank every time you feed them.
Help Them Destress
Just like us, fish are susceptible to stress in their day-to-day life. And unfortunately, stress can quite seriously impact your angelfish’s wellbeing, compromise its immunity, and potentially shorten the lifespan.
There could be several triggering factors behind your fish’s stress. It could be the wrong water parameters, mean tankmates, insufficient food, unsuitable tank decors, noise, an underlying illness, and potential predators.
The stressed fish will often try to hide and retreat at the base of the tank. It can also show physical signs like lack of appetite, faded colors, and heavy breathing.
If you believe your fish is stressed out, experiment to relieve the stress until you get to the right reason.
For instance, if there’s a bully, you can try removing it, and if your fish has digestion issues, feed it fiber-rich food like cooked and skinned peas.
Four Mistakes That Are Slowly Killing Your Angelfish
- Your angelfish is lonely
- Your tank is dirty
- Water flow is too strong
- Tank has predator fish
Your Angelfish Is Lonely
As adults, angelfish prefer a solitary life. However, when young, they prefer living in groups. An angelfish can survive alone, yes, but it wouldn’t lead a very good life. You can keep them with their own kind or at least keep them with a partner. This would provide them with a sense of security and amusement, in addition to bringing out their natural behavior for us to observe.
Your Tank Is Dirty
A dirty tank is a foolproof recipe for dead fish. My apologies if that sounded rude, but yes, a dirty tank will kill your fish sooner or later.
As hardy as angelfish are, you need to bring your A-game to maintain the water parameters. First, you shouldn’t skimp when getting a sturdy filter. However, the filter alone won’t solve the problem.
You need to perform weekly water changes, remove uneaten food, occasionally use a siphon vacuum, and routinely check the water parameters so that ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels are under check.
I use the API Freshwater Master Kit that tests 5 critical water parameters. Buying the master kit gives more value for money than purchasing individual strips.
I’ll leave a link below if you are interested:
The Water Flow Is Too Strong
Angelfish originally come from tropical South America, including much of the Amazonian river system. In the wild, they’re almost always found in quiet, slow-moving water. Therefore, in the tank, they’re not a fan of strong currents.
If your fish has to consistently battle strong currents, it’s obvious that it will be fatigued all the time. And it doesn’t take long for the fatigue to turn into an illness.
Here are a few ways you can reduce the water flow:
- Add live and plastic plants, as well as rocks and decors
- Restrict flow at filter intake
The Tank Has Predator Fish
If the tank has big predator fish like oscars, tiger barbs, and green tiger barbs, your angelfish will constantly live with the fear of being gobbled up. This adds to the fish’s physical and mental stress – significantly degrading its quality of life.
Besides the chances of being eaten any day, your angelfish lifespan will be compromised due to constant fear and pressure.
Four Diseases That Can Cut Your Angelfish’s Life Short
Angelfish are tough for most parts, but they are prone to certain diseases like Hexamita, ich, dropsy, and fin rot.
Dropsy occurs due to underlying infection and is usually caused by bacterium already present in the tank. The fish is most susceptible to dropsy when its immune system is weakened.
Dropsy directly affects the fish’s kidney function, leading to fluid buildup inside the body.
Some signs of dropsy are:
- Lack of appetite
- Rapid gill breathing
- Scales sticking out
- Protruding eyes
- Bloated stomach
Dropsy can be successfully treated if detected in its early stage. First, move the fish to the hospital tank, where the water is treated with Epsom salt (⅛ teaspoon for every 5 gallons). You can then also add antibacterial medication to their food.
Ick is caused by a protozoan parasite, Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, and often appears as tiny white spots dotted across the fish’s body. Ick is a highly contagious disease that can transmit even without a host.
The leading causes behind ick are polluted water, compromised immunity, and stress. Also, adding fish or plants that already carry this parasite can leech the disease on your angelfish.
This disease boasts a high mortality rate – therefore, it’s essential to start immediate treatment.
Some signs of ick are:
- White spots across the body
- Faded colors
- Folded fins
- Lack of appetite
- Fish rubbing its body against different surfaces
To treat ich, turn up the water temperature to 86°F and use copper-based anti-parasitic medication simultaneously for a few days. Also, add aquarium salt to the water, so it disrupts fluid regulation of ich.
When using the medication, make sure to remove the carbon filter as it absorbs medication.
Hexamita (Hole-In-The-Head Disease)
Hole in the head disease is the most dreaded and dangerous diseases in the fishkeeping hobby. This disease is caused by the infestation of parasites. As the moniker suggests, it affects the lateral organ and skin covering the fish’s face and the head.
While there’s no one definitive cause behind it, good husbandry practice and a low-stress environment surely help a fish not contract it ever.
Some signs of Hexamita are:
- Appetite loss
- Faded colors
- Lesions on the head
- White, stringy feces
To treat the disease, first transfer the fish to the hospital tank immediately. Next, raise the water temperature slowly until it reaches 90°F, and treat the tank with metroplex.
Fin rot is caused by bacterial infection. It is quite common among freshwater fish. The infection starts at the base and slowly makes its way to the base.
The main culprits behind fin rot disease are pseudomonas, flavobacterium columnare, or aeromonas, – and all these 3 kinds of bacteria are present in a dirty tank.
Some signs of fin rot are:
- Shredded fins
- Strange swimming patter (in later stages)
- Milky white blotches
Use antibiotic treatments and perform large water changes regularly to treat the disease.
Parting Words: How Long Do Angelfish Live?
- Freshwater angelfish popular in the hobby live for around 10 years in captivity.
- You can tell the tentative angelfish’s tentative age by looking at its eyes. Bigger the eyes, older the fish.
- Angelfish fry can live for around 3-7 days without food.
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